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California employees who work for small companies may soon be able to take unpaid leave after the birth of a child without worrying about losing their job. State lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to extend this protection, which is currently only available to employees who work for large companies. The New Parent Leave Act, which was signed by Governor Jim Brown earlier this year, will become effective on January 1, 2018. Under the new law, all employees will have the legal right to take unpaid leave without having to worry about losing their job.

Rights of New Parents Under Current California Law

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) both provide protections for new parents who want to spend time with their new children. Each of these laws has specific eligibility requirements but generally,protect the rights of new parents who work for companies with at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius. Parents who want to take unpaid paternity or maternity leave must have worked for their employer for at least 1,250 hours in the year prior to their requested leave. If paternity or maternity leave is granted, parents will have up to 12 weeks to bond with their new child without having to worry about losing their job. This includes taking leave to bond with children who are born, adopted, or placed in foster care.

Employers are forbidding from taking adverse employment action or discriminating against a parent when they choose to take unpaid leave. When a parent returns to work they must be placed back in the same position they were in before they left, or a position that is extremely similar.

In some cases, mothers may also be able to take medical leave if they suffer an illness, disability, or medical condition because of their pregnancy. The Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA) allows mothers to take up to 4 months of medical leave if they suffer from postpartum depression, lose the child during childbirth, or require pre or postnatal care.

The good news for employees is that the 12 weeks of unpaid “bonding” leave can be taken in addition to the 4-month medical leave. Some parents may be able to secure up to 7 months of unpaid leave because of pregnancy and childbirth.

Expanded Rights to Employees of Small Companies

The New Parent Leave Act expands the leave protections to employees who work for small companies. Specifically, new parents working for companies with 20-49 employees within a 75-mile radius are now entitled to unpaid leave. In order to qualify for leave protection, employees must have worked no less than 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding the leave request. Parents who qualify under the New Parent Leave Act will be entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with their new child. This applies to children who are born, adopted, or placed in foster care.

During this term of unpaid leave, an employer must reserve the employee’s job and maintain health care coverage. When the parent returns to work they must be paid at lease the same rate they received prior to their leave.

Can a mother and a father take unpaid leave at the same time? Maybe. Employers have the discretion to approve or deny requests to allow both parents to take leave at the same time. However, if both parents take leave at the same time, the total leave will be capped at a total of 12 weeks.

The unpaid leave offered by the New Parent Leave Act can be combined with medical leave offered by the FEHA. The FEHA applies to employers with 5 or more employees, which makes qualifying for medical leave fairly simply. Mothers who suffer a pregnancy or childbirth-related disability and take 12 weeks of bonding leave could potentially spend 7 months away from work without fear of losing their job.

Experienced San Jose Pregnancy Discrimination Attorney

Whether you are about to be a parent of your own newborn child or are eagerly anticipating adopting an older child, you have rights under California’s anti-discrimination laws. This is true whether you are a mother or a father. If you believe that your employment rights have been violated you have the right to pursue legal action. Call the Briski Law Firm today to learn more about filing a pregnancy discrimination claim.